As MPs intervene in their very own Wikipedia file

When the article on Mediapart On 5 May, she accuses Patricia Mirallès of using her envelope with personal mandate spending, a representative (territory of progress) of the first constituency, Hérault speaks on Twitter : “I have nothing to hide. » At the same time, in the shadows, his parliamentary team is busy editing its Wikipedia page, which already mentions these embarrassing revelations. “Pmiralles34”, a user registered on this occasion in the encyclopedia, is trying to delete the incriminated passage and replace it with a report on the parliamentary activities of Mr.yes Mirallès in 2021. Operation – a little too visible – pretense? ” notreplies to The world one of his associates in the assembly. There has been a change to the page which we believe was biased because it was incomplete. »

The small digital crusade of a Member’s parliamentary team is nothing special. Encyclopedia contributors are well aware of this. : Wikipedia pages, which are well visible and linked well in search engine results, are an important communication issue for MEPs. By number The world, made from Wikipedia history of changes, more than 50% of the pages of deputies of the outgoing legislature (2017-2022) were edited at least once by the elected representative himself or a member of his immediate area – the assistant deputy, by a majority. Behavior that contradicts the rules of the Internet encyclopedia.

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Some Members modify the article that concerns them by adding many details that increase their parliamentary activity. In April 2022, the website of Bérangère Couillard, a representative of La République en Marche (LRM) from 7.e constituency of Gironde, so his team embellished with several sentences about his political career, full details of his participation in parliamentary delegations or the organization of public meetings. In February, a member of parliament tried to make a comprehensive assessment of the mandate of his deputy, the socialist Alain David (Gironde), who campaigned for his re-election. A few months ago, it was the site of La France insoumise (LFI) Michel Larivy (Ariège) that suffered a great deal of ripolinisation: his trainee sought to clarify the content of his written questions, amendments and draft laws. .

During their term of office, at least 131 MEPs inflated their Wikipedia page by providing sometimes unnecessary details, such as a description “small student work” by Adrien Quatennens (LFI), A complete list of friendship groups attended by Alexandra Valetta-Ardisson (LRM) or Sensitivity “humanistic and progressive” lähde: Audrey Dufeu-Schubert (LRM).

Erase controversies and “bad buzz”

While some assistants are busy radiating their MP’s site – to the point that it looks more like a resume than an encyclopedic article – others have taken the opposite path, working to remove any inappropriate material and cut off anything that looks like a controversy or negative word. -from the mouth.

In September 2017, a parliamentary assistant wanted to end the helmeted attack on a Socialist Party representative by her employer, the ex-LRM representative M’jida El Guerrab, arguing that this information had no place on Wikipedia. since “investigation in progress” – the elected representative has since been sentenced to three years in prison and two years’ imprisonment and has been appealed. Between October 2021 and March 2022, Pierre Cabaré’s (LRM) parliamentary team is trying to delete a few paragraphs on allegations of sexual harassment and attacks against him and his convictions, with at least two bills.

At first glance, some attempts at the editorial office illustrate the reluctance of some parliamentary teams to smooth out their digital profile. As when AFBrunet deletes Anne-France Brunet’s poor manaž managerial qualities ’against her co-workers, “Toll passage Or.

Some deletions border on insignificance: Raphaël Gauvain (LRM) deletes his family relationship with his mother-in-law, former Justice Minister Dominique Perben (deputy claims that “I do not know why [son collaborateur] I would like to remove it “) ; a contributor close to MP Jean-René Cazeneuv (LRM) erases the political-economic career of the daughter of an elected representative, an adviser to Emmanuel Macron; Stanislas Guerini’s assistant erases the fact that Ismaël Emelien, a former adviser to Elysée, witnessed his marriage …

“View neutrality” on Wikipedia

Outrageous or more discreet, these numerous changes they are from a good war believes Fabricio Cardenas, a librarian by profession and one of the main contributors to the French encyclopedia. “Communicators are trying to alert the representative”, notes. This phenomenon seems to affect Macronists in particular, of whom at least 63% have been tempted to customize their own site. Much more than the Socialists or Republicans, of whom only 29% did so. A trend that can be explained absence of historical militants ” Authueil, an extremely active contributor to the encyclopedia, is advancing within the presidential party “If LRM parliamentary collaborators do not take care of the maintenance of their Members’ sites, who will take care of them? asks this former parliamentary assistant.

The bias of these many contributors, whose activity fluctuates according to the political adventures of their elected representative, contradicts one of the basic principles of the Internet encyclopedia: the neutrality of the view. “Writing about yourself while staying neutral is very difficult, if not impossible, explains Jules *, one of the administrators of the French Wikipedia. Neutrality requires articles that must create a synthesis of quality resources. » Principle despised by Esteve Vaills, close associate (LRM) of Pyrénées-Orientales Romaina Graua: “Mr Grau’s site is for the Parisians in the pressconsiders this former journalist who has become a communicator. Wikipedia is necessarily an advertisement. »

This desire to maintain control of their digital image rarely goes unnoticed. The collaborative online encyclopedia is based on a community of volunteer contributors who can become watchers to monitor the activity of other Wikipedia users, with a special focus on political sites. In particular, they take care of the legislative approach, the good behavior of Members’ articles, which should maintain an encyclopedic tone and avoid (too) self-pity. [Le contributeur] turned Wikipedia page into a political treatise “deplores the demanding Wikipedian, who deletes the flattering paragraph added to the MP’s website. “We are only looking at modifications, not people. From the moment the information is not distorted, where the facts have not been chosen biasedly, wewould like to point to Authueil.

If the article is not impartial, Wikipedia guardians have several weapons. They can revert user changes to revert to a previous version of the page, and negate the work of a parliamentary assistant with just a few clicks. They can also place a large colored banner at the top of the article to alert the reader to the laudatory nature of the article, or even – the perfect weapon – to block any page modifications to avoid premature releases for a period of time.

Manipulation for manipulation

Most partisan changes are scrutinized, but some fail. This is the case, for example, with Jacques Marilossian’s (LRM) website: its content, written by one of his parliamentary associates, describes in detail the position taken by the Member. At the time of publication, the article seems to be quite distant from the encyclopedic and synthetic goal that Wikipedia usually sets for its contributors.

As Jules * points out, these biased contributions are still there “Less annoying when it’s transparent”. Some assistants, good students, sign their contributions stating that they come “parliamentary team” or “member’s aide”. However, transparency is not always required on Wikipedia, where anyone can edit an encyclopedic article with a single click without having to identify themselves. If a site has introduced an obligation to identify remunerated accounts (under penalty of ending blocking), it is not uncommon for parliamentary teams to ignore this rule and hide.

The team of Karine Lebon, representative (various left) of Reunion, therefore used several accounts with the names sibyline (Snow974, Skeptic974, etc.), which perfectly match the definition of “fake noses” on Wikipedia. by the same user to bypass blocks and ” deceive community “. On Loïca Prud’homm’s (LFI) representative’s website, they have four pseudonymous accounts sharing the same IP address (an identifier that points to the geographical location of the connection). “inserted several non-encyclopedic paragraphs”, before they are detected by a demanding administrator.

Countless changes also come from completely anonymous accounts identified only by their IP address, and therefore it is not possible to link them to an elected representative. The world however, it counted one hundred pages of deputies adjusted by an anonymous account from the address …, which corresponds to the room of the National Council of the Slovak Republic. Thus, in February 2021, a user installed in an office in Palais-Bourbon secretly tried to erase the qualification of the “far right” attached to the Southern League, the party of MP Vaucluse Marie-France Lorho.

Is the editing of political parties ultimately just an amateur sport that collaborators engage in with tactics that are easy to thwart? Not necessarily, warns Wikipedia administrators who point to the existence of communication agencies specializing in digital reputation, which are very skilled in the process, while remaining under the radar. “Some really know that. And when they come into play, it’s much harder to spot them. “, explains Jules *. Over time, several have been observed: three accounts linked to Gantzer, set up by François Hollande’s communications consultant of the same name, were observed in an article by Laurent Saint-Martin, Val-de-Marne’s representative (LRM). However, this pursuit of manipulation is becoming increasingly difficult because “Communication agencies are improving significantly and are well aware of how Wikipedia works”admits librarian Fabricio Cardenas before making sure of politicians’ ability to disguise Wikipedia’s encyclopedic intent: “In general, there is still a need to educate in the digital world: politicians have fallen away. »

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